James Joseph Augustus Sweeney was born at Erskineville, New South Wales, on 1 July 1899. Having gained written permission from his parents, the 18-year-old clerk enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force on 13 May 1918. Sweeney departed Sydney as part of the 4th General Service Reinforcements aboard HMAT Port Sydney on 17 August 1918.
The new reinforcements underwent further training in Egypt, and in November Sweeney was transferred to the 1st Light Horse Regiment, then camped at Rishon LeZion. The regiment marched towards Rafa, their point of demobilisation, riding over the old Turkish positions at Gaza on the way. Sweeney wrote to his father requesting several tins of Kiwi brand boot polish to darken not only his boots but also his pants, which were left almost white from wear. Sweeney also wrote of the regiment passing their horses over to the Indian army as they could not take them back to Australia. The young private and the remaining elements of the 1st Light Horse Regiment left Kantara in March 1919 and arrived back in Australia the next month. Sweeney was discharged from the AIF in May 1919.
James Sweeney died nine years later at Springwood, New South Wales.